I have been thinking more and more about the United American War Veterans since posting the bit the other day about the plaque they placed at the U.S. Custom House on Memorial Day 1921. It seems remarkable to me that a prominent group like that could just come and go so quickly. I intend to do more with this in the near future, but a cursory search reveals that the story is as fascinating as it is obscure.
The head of the the U.A.W.V. turns out to have been a New Yorker named Warren Shaw Fisher. He was a veteran of both the Spanish-American and Great Wars, and his father had fought in the American Civil War. It turns out Fisher was a bigwig in New York State Progressive politics. On 26 October 1919 he stood in for Leonard Wood at a veterans function at Carnegie Hall. The timing was not accidental, Theodore Roosevelt had died that January and his birthday was the next day. Everyone in the audience would have known that.
Just two weeks earlier Wood had spoken at Carnegie Hall himself, at a fundraiser of the Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association. Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, Theodore’s sister and a published poet, read a poem she had written about Quentin Roosevelt’s air service buddies and the role they played at Theodore’s funeral that January. This Carnegie Hall fundraiser served the dual function of promoting Wood’s 1920 presidential prospects. It must have been an extraordinary moment.
The 1920 campaign was where Corinne Robinson gained fame as the first woman ever to speak for a major party candidate when she spoke on Wood’s behalf. Fisher threw his influence behind the general’s presidential run and was active in the Leonard Wood League.
On the 4th of July 1921, just five weeks after the dedication of that plaque on Bowling Green, Shaw was the grand marshall in a 100,000 strong march against Prohibition. The 69th Regiment Band played behind him with a sign declaring that “The Volstead Act Must Go.” In case anyone failed to get the message, the parade included wounded vets driven in automobiles.
In 1922 Fisher supported Al Smith in his successful bid to retake the Albany governor’s mansion. Like Smith, Shaw was a Tammany Democrat. There must be a great story here because in the 1924 presidential election Shaw abandoned Smith and backed Robert La Follette. Shaw ran for New York City mayor in 1925 on the Progressive Political League ticket. The Progressives were strong in New York because of Theodore Roosevelt’s roots here, but the election went to Jimmy Walker.
Fisher died just three years later at the tender age of forty-nine. This may explain why he and the veterans group he led are all but forgotten today.
(image/Library of Congress)